Read Looseheadprop's post on the history of the independent prosecutor 

It appears that the Judiciary Committees first considered asking James Comey to testify at the end of January, when Comey and Kyle Sampson had a discussion about it. Since then, Comey has made it clear that some of the explanations offered by DOJ officials testifying to Congress don't match his understanding of the facts. After Paul McNulty and Will Moschella described a bunch of trumped up performance issues with the fired USAs, for example, reports revealed that Comey considered Paul Charlton and David Iglesias to be among the best USAs. For a man whose farewell address focused closely on human dignity and trust in the institution of justice…

I expect that every human being in this organization, from the janitor to the Attorney General, will be treated with the exact same amount of human dignity and respect. They are all God's creatures, and from a distance, or THIS close, there is no difference.

Fifth, and last, I expect that you will appreciate and protect an amazing gift you have received as an employee of the Department of Justice. It is a gift you may not notice until the first time you stand up and identify yourself as an employee of the Department of Justice and say something – whether in a courtroom, a conference room, or a cocktail party – and find that total strangers believe what you say next.

  • That gift – the gift that makes possible so much of the good we accomplish – is a reservoir of trust and credibility, a reservoir built for us, and filled for us, by those who went before – most of whom we never knew. They were people who made sacrifices and kept promises to build that reservoir of trust.
  • Our obligation – as the recipients of that great gift – is to protect that reservoir, to pass it to those who follow, those who may never know us, as full as we got it.
  • The problem with reservoirs is that it takes tremendous time and effort to fill them, but one hole in a dam can drain them. The protection of that reservoir requires vigilance, an unerring commitment to truth, and a recognition that the actions of one may affect the priceless gift that benefits all. 

…the USA firings must really rankle badly. Which should make today's hearing interesting, to say the least.

Opening statements: Linda Sanchez describes the stonewalling, the evidence that has not been provided.

Minority Leader Chris Cannon uses the best Republican logic. The Democrats keep talking about stonewalling. But we've never seen evidence of it. No mention, however, of the evidence WH and DOJ wouldn't turn over.  And then he suggests that Comey's testimony is going to be tainted by selective leaks from the investigation.

Comey sits there stonefaced.

Mel Watt objects to Cannon's suggestion that Democrats are looking for wrongdoing. 

Cannon still claiming that nothing "substantial" has come out. Blames the press for making this all up–"it sells newspapers."

Conyers: I have no idea how long were going to take. Firings part of long-laid plan involving highest levels of DOJ and WH. Misstatements made concerning the reasons for the firings.  Numerous questionable communications made to several of the USAs concerning pending prosecutions. "But what we don't know is who actually made the decision to place the USAs on the firing list." (Goes through all the denials.) The role of the White House remains elusive due to their failure to cooperate.

Comey sits stonefaced.

My name is James Comey. I go by Jim. General Counsel for Lockheed Martin.

I was the direct supervisor of USAs. Talking with them about resources, disputes. Describes his familiarity with 6 of the USAs.

[Interesting–Sanchez leaves out Chiara when she asks about how familiar he was with the experience of USAs] 

February 28 2005. Sampson asked who were the weakest USAs. Who do you think are the weak ones. "I'm quite certain he didn't mention the White House, because that would have stuck in my mind."

Was Kevin Ryan among those weak performers.


Were any of the other fired prosecutors.

Sanchez directs Comey to OAG 511, Sampson's first list of proposed USAs to fire. Document redacted, doesn't show that it was sent to anyone in DOJ.

Comey: I was not aware that Sampson's question was part of a process. I saw this document for the first time when committee investigators interviewed me.

Cannon encourages Sanchez the opportunity to walk Comey through the questioning. Feeny wants to ask his questions and go for other votes. 

Feeny: Did anyone suggest people were fired for ongoing investigations?

Comey: No

[Note: Feeny is one of the people who may have benefitted from this, since he is from FL Middle District, where one of the fixers was,and he has Abramoff ties that may get him in trouble.] 

Conyers asks about the performance of the others.

"The [reasons] I read in the newspaper have not been consistent with my experience." 

Conyers asks about Lam specifically.

Comey: Interactions with her were always positive.

Comey had heard rumors that Goodling had asked loyalty oaths, heard the rumors in the last six months or so. 

Conyers directs Comey to read the firing list–Comey finds Lam and Cummins.

Cannon asks Comey to explain his conversation with Lam about gun prosecutions. Comey explains that he said, "if there's a contribution to be made in your district, please focus on it."

Cannon: Was it admonishment?

Comey: To some degree. I was urging a very close look to make sure there wasn't a contribution that could be made.  

Good question from Congressman Hank Johnson: how many of the other people you discussed gun prosecutions with were terminated?  Comey answered, none of them.

Comey: never heard anything bad about Cummins, his sense was Cummins was competent. Doesn't know why Sampson fired Cummins.

One name that was stricken, recommended for removal. John McKay. 

Cannon seems to be here to oversee this, he's not going to ask questions.

Mel Watt asks about McKay's investigation of who killed his AUSA. Comey not aware of any concerns regarding McKay's investigation of that.

Watt asks about the LInX information sharing system.

Comey: I wasn't supposed to have favorites, but McKay was one of my favorites because he was passionate about a subject I cared about. We both thought it was absurd that our children could google billions of pieces of information, but we could only share information about whether anyone had seen a green car. I thought he was making a real difference with this LInX information sharing program.  

Watt asks about Comey's recommendation that Ryan was a weak manager. He says he doesn't mean to hurt anyone's feelings. He was a nice guy. But that he had serious management problems.

Stephen Cohen, TN. "I would pay for that New York article." At one point Rove and Miers had suggested replacing all 93 USAs. Had that ever happened in history?

During a term, not in my experience.

Cohen: any reasonable idea of why that would occur.

Cohen: What does loyalty to the President mean wrt the DOJ? 

Comey: I don't know what that would mean. My people had to be seen as the good guys. We needed to have a DOJ that is run by political appointees but that is a trust for the American people. 

Cohen: How would you rate the morale at DOJ when you left?

Comey: It was good them. Folks are having a tough time now, it's a tough time for the DOJ.

Cohen: If people made decisions that weaken the department, would be on this list.

Comey: In many ways I miss the department terribly. That's not for me to say. If I could I'd like to take a pass on that one. 



Marcy Wheeler aka Emptywheel is an American journalist whose reporting specializes in security and civil liberties.